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Mastbaum High School student writes short story: ‘How the Rich Stay Rich’

Mastbaum student Sharai Rollins poses for a portrait in her classroom on June 5, 2023. (Photo by Khysir Carter)

Editor’s note: This story was submitted by a student at Jules E. Mastbaum High School through a community partnership with Kensington Voice.

How do the rich stay rich? Well, my dad always told me that the only way to stay rich was to keep my circle as small as possible. I never really understood that until I met Coogi, and together we pulled off one of the greatest heists in the history of Texas. My name’s Mamba. It was 1992. I lived in one of the best parts of Houston, but Coogi lived in one of the worst, so that’s where we were most of the time. I ran with Coogi, and Coogi ran with the bulls. I wasn’t a big fan, but I didn’t say anything. Coogi was my best friend. He was also the leader of our little group.

One day, Coogi and I were hanging out at the park like usual. I was 15 years old and didn’t have a care in the world. Coogi, however, couldn’t have been more excited to see me. You see, Coogi had a plan to rob a bank. He wanted to get rich quickly, but Coogi’s plan was underdeveloped. For his plan, Coogi needed four people. He already had the other two, so all he needed was me. Like I said, though, I didn’t have a care in the world. I was already rich and didn’t care (at the time) about becoming richer. So I said no, but Coogi had different plans.

About a week or so went by, and Coogi and went back to the way we were. Until two days later, I woke up in the back of a van. I was tied up with a bag over my head, but I could still hear the kidnappers talking. As I listened, I tried to stay as still as possible, but then I heard a voice all too familiar. It was Coogi! I yelled out to tell Coogi to let me go, but they just continued on with their conversation. Coogi was confident, but the other two seemed a little shaken.

A couple of minutes later, the van stopped. Coogi pulled off the bag, put a gun to my head, and told me to either get on board or he’d kill me. I looked at him and realized something that day. What my dad said was true, and I had picked the wrong circle. I didn’t fight him, though. I was betrayed, but I wasn’t going to let anyone see how I felt, so I decided to let this play out. I grabbed a mask, gloves, and a gun, and we went inside.

When we got in, everyone in the bank was knocked out. No alarms had been set off or anything. You see, I only had the gist of the plan, but it was basically this:

  1. Put the chloroform gas into the ventilation system and knock out everyone in the bank
  2. Wait six minutes, then go in
  3. Kinney would hack into the alarm system and disable it
  4. Wake up the manager to put the code in for the vault
  5. Coogi would take all the money he could fit in four duffle bags
  6. Watch and make sure no hostages are awake
  7. Get the money to the van
  8. Lion drives us to the remote airstrip waiting to take us to Paris

We followed the steps exactly. We would have one or two hours before anyone even found out we had robbed the place. Lion looked scared out of his mind, but he was getting us to where we needed to be. Coogi and I thought to check to see if people found out. When we turned on the radio, we were the talk of the town.

What was worse was that the cops knew what car we had, and we were just unlucky enough to pass by a patrol car. I thought it was over, but just as I was getting ready to surrender, Coogi was getting ready to start a war. I looked over and saw him cocking back a shotgun. I tried to stop him, but the police officer was already at the window. Coogi gave him one good look and fired. He yelled out to Lion and told him to drive. Lion sped off, and we made it to the airstrip about half an hour later.

When we arrived at the airstrip, I began to think we could make it out of there, home free. The plane was ready, and the pilot was set to take off. We all hopped on the plane, and we were good from there. We arrived in Paris a few hours later with plenty of time to spare.

Since we did such a good job, the boys thought it would be a good idea to celebrate what they had won. So we decided to go out for drinks. We got to the bar at around ten. When we arrived, I saw the looks on their faces: genuine happiness. It was like a feeling of relief had brushed over them, and all their worries were gone. At that moment, I think what I was feeling was happiness too. I took a seat at a bar stool toward the back, and that is when the party began.

Drink after drink, I watched as they filled themselves with enough liquor and booze for three sailor ships. They were so busy cheering themselves on they didn’t even notice I stopped drinking after two shots. I was a little tipsy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It almost felt too easy … almost. I got up and went outside. I needed to clear my head for a little before we left.

A couple of minutes later, the rest of the boys came out. We all got in the car. I looked to my left, and Lion was trying not to get into an accident on the road. I looked in the rearview mirror behind me, and Coogi and Kinney were breathing fast and looking at the scenery as we drove.

Lion drove us all to the Northern, abandoned part of Bois de Boulogne. It was about 11 p.m. This was the part where we were supposed to split the money and go our separate ways – which we did. We all got our money, and we all were happy. Kinney, Lion, and Coogi all nodded at each other and walked in different directions.

I stayed and waited just a little longer. With each step they took, the next one looked to be more difficult. It had been about an hour, so the poisoning was bound to kick in soon enough. You could hear the thuds of each of their bodies dropping to the ground one by one. I walked up to Coogi as he lay there begging for my help. I gathered all the duffle bags and walked away into the dark. So the question was, “How do the rich stay rich?”

Easy … we just take from the poor.

Editors: Khysir Carter, Zari Tarazona Designer: Khysir Carter